That is the key axiom of the Dutch World War II Myth.
[There are a few other axioms: "the non-Jewish Dutch tried to protect their Jewish fellow citizens", "they guarded Jewish property in hopes that the Jews would return after the war", "many gentiles hid Jews or helped them escape", "resistance was futile", "many people joined the resistance", and "many Dutch gentiles also suffered during the occupation".]
Well, no offense, but bla bla bla.
[Bla bla, bla bla, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla....bla!]
A book published today, Tegen Beter Weten In (Against Better Judgement, by Ies Vuijsje), claims somewhat otherwise.
Regarding the myth of ignorance, that is.
According to the author, both Jews and non-Jews in the Netherlands knew what was happening fairly early on. Yes, those who weren't paying attention, and those with their heads in the sand, were not as cognizant as the others, but the government in exile, the "resistance", the officials and bureaucrats who efficiently kept the occupation running smoothly for the Germans, much of the passive mass, and Jewish citizens themselves knew what the Germans were up to.
The article in the Volkskrant about the book is here:
The NRC Handelsblad article is here:
The Volkskrant quotes Professor Ivo Schöffer (Leiden University, history dept., retired) as saying that the book should permanently put to rest the myth of popular and bureaucratic ignorance of the fate of the Dutch Jews at the time. And he also bases that in part on personal experience during 1942: "De Jong en zijn medewerkers waren destijds van mening dat dat wetenschap achteraf moest zijn geweest. Maar ik weet zeker dat ik toen een joodse vrouw heb gewaarschuwd voor deportatie: u weet welk vreselijk lot u wacht." ('De Jong and his colleagues in those days opined that that knowledge was hindsight. But I know that I warned a Jewish woman then about deportation: 'you know the horrible fate that awaits you'').
The author, Ies Vuisje, writes that Dutch post-war historians, most especially Loe De Jong, conformed to the myth that no one knew what was happening. This despite the underground press during 1942 having gone into explicit detail over the Endlösung der Judenfrage decided upon earlier in the year.
The NRC Handelsblad, which is the mouthpiece of establishment Dutchdom, takes a different approach to the book - somewhat critical, and quoting David Barnouw (head of NIOD - the Netherlands Institute for War (oorlog) Documentation) as stating that Vuisje was a sloppy researcher.
Especially Vuisje's conclusion that De Jong cherrypicked among documents and sources to substantiate his own views and omitted the facts draw David Barnouw's ire: "Die bewering van Vuijsje is, met permissie, een leugen. In een passage van ongeveer 40 pagina’s behandelt De Jong de problematiek van wat men in Nederland wist van het lot van de joden. Daarbij citeert hij letterlijk passages uit illegale kranten waarin termen als ‘volledig uitgemoord’ en ‘koelbloedig vergast’ voorkomen." ('That claim of Vuisje's is, by your leave, a lie. In one passage of approximately forty pages, De Jong deals with the issue of what was known in the Netherlands of the fate of the Jews. There he quotes literally passages from the underground newspapers in which terms such as 'completely exterminated' and 'cold-bloodedly gassed' are used').
[Bloggeditorial comment: So in any case the underground press knew, and as more people in the Netherlands were members of the resistance and involved in the distribution of underground newspapers than in any other occupied country (as has been vociferated ad nauseum!), it may be assumed that everybody knew.
Let me simplify that: Everybody knew. Everybody knew. Everybody knew.]
As further substantiation of his assertion that such knowledge was not widespread, Barnouw mentions the following: "Een groep studenten heeft bij ons onderzoek gedaan naar oorlogsdagboeken van Amsterdammers. Daaruit bleek dat sommigen eerder op de hoogte waren van wat er met de joden gebeurde, anderen later, of niet." ('A group of our students researched war-diaries of Amsterdammers. From which it became obvious that some were cognizant at an earlier stage of what was happening to the Jews, others later or not at all.').
[Bloggeditorial comment: And people living in a brutal police state always write the unalloyed truth in their diaries? No one need fear that their private documents will be used against them, or that collaborators and informants might translate one's scribbles?
The only thing that those diaries establish is that some people did not write about everything - people use diaries to record their own lives, and what moves, irritates, or impacts them, at the time. Even then not everything will be jotted down. Not everybody is as irritatingly puntje-precies as Samuel Pepys.]
Vuisje, however, remarks that the myth of Dutch final-solution ignorance was a post-war product: "Direct na de oorlog is de mythe ontstaan dat men van het lot van de joden niets geweten had. Kennelijk was de waarheid te pijnlijk om onder ogen te zien." ('Immediately after the war, the myth originated that no one knew of the fate of the Jews. Apparently the truth was too painful to admit').
[Bloggeditorial comment: Dutch speakers were very well represented among the foreigners serving in the eastern theatre. Granted, they were probably drawn from the most poor-stupid-ignorant segment of the population, but were they 'ignorant'? The idea that reports didn't filter back from the several tens of thousands of Dutchmen and Flemings wearing SS uniforms is simply not credible - precisely like the villagers next to the lagers claiming that they did not know anything. In any case, the role of the collaborators and the Dutch SS legions still needs to be made a matter of the public WWII awareness, rather than dismissed as an afterthought. Much myth remains. Large parts of the truth are still too painful to admit. Apparently.]
Note that the Dutch view of World War Two and their own part in it has been under siege for some time now. Some of us have long doubted the self-congratulatory aspects of Dutch historiography.
It's nice to see De Jong being toppled from his pedestal.